How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Well, you might want to ask the members of Rutgers Prep’s Madrigal Singers and Women’s Vocal Chamber Ensemble, who will perform there on February 16.
They will join singers from several other ensembles in a performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ monumental cantata Dona Nobis Pacem, as well as two shorter pieces by American composer Mack Wilberg. In all, the concert will involve some 185 singers accompanied by a 36-piece orchestra. It is part of Sechrist Travel’s “Gotham Sings!” choral festival, an annual event that showcases outstanding musicians from across the country.
Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was a British composer famous for his swelling pastoral themes and jaunty arrangements of folksongs. But he also had a more serious side. As an ambulance driver and artillery officer in World War I, he witnessed the horrors of that conflict. Many of his later works, including Dona Nobis Pacem (Latin for “give us peace”), were influenced by his experience. Rutgers Preparatory School Choir Director Dr. Colin Britt explains: “The work is a very personal expression of Vaughan Williams’ pacifism. He wrote it in 1936, between the two wars, when the whole world was on pins and needles…it’s especially powerful because he had all the context from World War I to show people how horrible war is, and he’s saying ‘Watch out! Don’t do it again.’”
The singers themselves are thrilled to have the opportunity to perform such an important work in such a famous place. “The piece is intense,” says 9th grader Roshele Jean-Baptiste, a member of the Women’s Vocal Chamber Ensemble. “It’s a caution that war shouldn’t happen. It’s different from a lot of what we sing, and to sing it at Carnegie Hall – that’s something you don’t do every day!”
The concert will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tickets are $58 and $90, and can be purchased at www.carnegiehall.org or by calling 212-247-7800.